Rugged beauty stretches across the horizon. A glen comprised of volcanic rocks, a region drenched in history, harsh mountains sprouting up to form an unpolished backdrop for a day of exploration of the Scottish Highlands. Grab a plate of haggis and cue the bagpipes!
During our time in Scotland, we flew into Glasgow then used Edinburgh as a base camp. Being that there is SO much of Scotland outside of the capital city, we decided to spend some time venturing through the foggy highlands. Late December brought us typical Scottish weather: sideways rain, persistent wind, and a chill that gnawed to the bones, despite however many layers you may try to pile on. It was no deterrent to our need to explore. In one day, we covered 500 kilometers to include Stirling, Loch Ness, Glen Coe, and Ben Nevis, reaching the tip of Cairngorms National Park. It was aggressive, but it was also amazing.
To assist you in duplicating the feelings that The highlands of Scotland evoke, I give you the (very condensed) gritty Scottish plight:
-Romans, Vikings, and cults, oh my! Until 1100ish
-Scots start thinking they don't want to be ruled by big sister England anymore and revolts for independence began to break out in the late 1290's (even though it's not totally accurate, think: the movie Braveheart). In addition to protecting their land, Scots began to raid areas in Northern England. Robert the Bruce rules Scotland until his passing.
-After years of battles and tension, England decided to invade again during the 1320's. Finally, the Treaty of Edinburgh is signed in 1328.
-James IV married Margaret Tudor (Henry VIII's daughter) in 1503, laying groundwork for what would be the Act of Union in 1707; Kingdom of Great Britain.
Unfortunately, trials and tribulations didn't stop here. Jacobite rebellions began to spring up like wildfire across Scotland and south into England. Jacobites wanted to restore the (Roman Catholic) King James VII of Scotland, (II of England) to the throne. Why Jacobite? "Jacobus" is the Renaissance Latin form of "Iacomus", which is the original Latin form of "James". Jacobite rebellions occurred from 1710-1740. During this time, Disputes flare up between the Campbell Clan of Argyll and the MacDonald Clan in Glencoe. During the Scottish Wars of the Covenant, the two clans were on opposing sides. The massacre of Glen Coe results.
Glencoe is one of those places with an eerie beauty.
Multiple Acts were then put into place to banish Scottish clan activity, including traditions of the Scottish Highlands and the Scottish Gaelic language.
With pain comes beauty, (or at least that't what I tell myself when I get my brows waxed) but if this is true, it explains the distressed allure of The Highlands. More recently The Highlands has been used for many big name film productions: Highlander, Skyfall (23rd James Bond film), Harry Potter etc..
But of course no trip to Scotland is complete without a (super cliche) stop at Loch Ness, and we obliged! The Highlands are one of the most sparsely populated areas of Europe (credited to mass migration during the Industrial Revolution) but I am pretty sure that everyone who was currently IN The Highlands was on our Loch Ness lookin' for Nessie boat tour. Is it a total tourist trap? Probably. Did that keep us from piling ourselves into a boat to cruise the murky waters with a crew of overzealous amateur photographers? No. Did we actually see Nessie... buy me a drink and I'll tell you all about it!
Rounding out a perfect blustery Highland adventure is a visit to Stirling, which rides the border of The Highlands and Lowlands. What we would regard to be a sleepy little town is considered to be one of the more bustling stops in the Scottish Highlands. From the train station you have a 15 minute march (not exactly flat terrain here, people) up to the magnificent and imposing Stirling Castle. But don't worry, getting your cardio here will give you a better appreciation for the castle's natural defensive system as it sits high upon a crag with rocky cliffs surrounding, protecting. While the early history of Stirling and the possibility of Roman territory is debated, the first confirmed existence of this castle (one of Scotland's largest) was in 1110. Over the years, there would be a painful eight sieges, the last in 1746, a product of the Jacobite uprisings. Aren't you glad you didn't skip the history section earlier?
But let's be real. You came here to hear about Stirling. Braveheart. Mel Gibson. Blue painted faces and a soft Celtic flute's song leading you into an enchanting dewy meadow, the Scottish winds (not so) gently reminding you that perhaps you should have worn something under your kilt.
A current view of Stirling Bridge- a slight upgrade from the bridge depicted in Braveheart.
Hate to break it to everyone, but the movie Braveheart wasn't totally accurate. Shocking, right? So here it goes: the Battle of Stirling Bridge occurred during the First War of Scottish Independence when William Wallace (Mel) and company defeated English forces. The battle was significant in proving tenacity of the Scots, and that in general, their somewhat rag-tag infantry was superior to the refined tactics of the British Calvary- under the watch of William Wallace, of course. So what did we learn today? Never underestimate the under dog.
BON VOYAGE, BABES! XOXO
(Make sure you check back soon to read about our love affair with the city of Edinburgh!)